American Sterling Naturalistic Berry or Fruit Ladle, c. 1880's
Although unmarked, this is an exciting example of naturalistic American silver from the 1880's. A large pear-shaped bowl, one side lipped with punch decoration, attaches to a branch-like handle. With a bark-like hand-chased finish, this handle supports realistically cast and applied apples and leaves attaching to the branch at appropriate nubs. The apples and leaves are gilded in different tones of gold. The bottom of the apples feature the same five point bud end that one finds on real apples. These people did their homework!
A somewhat similar (also unmarked) punch ladle with applied grapes was owned by Sam Wagstaff and sold as part of his collection at Christie's. (Sale number 6748; January 20, 1989; Lot number 59; $2200.00.) Wagstaff set the standard: his collection was the most eclectic, exciting and confident collection of American 19th century silver ever collected.
We speculate that these pieces may have been made by Towle in Newburyport, MA. During the 1880's they produced a small quantity of exciting and idiosyncratic silver that is not always marked. While we can't swear to this, it is better than idle speculation.
The back is stamped 'STERLING'. This wonderful ladle measure 9 inches long, weighs 6.45 troy ounces, has never been monogrammed and is in exceptional condition with no visible wear to the two tones of gilding.
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